D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy Novelette Cover Design

Readers always ask where the ideas come from for book covers. I’ve posted a number of times about the process I’ve used and the evolution of the various covers in the D’mok Revival series. I guess it’s important to keep that tradition alive.

For those that are current in the D’mok Revival series, you’ll remember Speru Chew’s world of Alo. It’s the first major adventure in book 3, D’mok Revival: Descension. Without spoilers, politics abound on that world. One of the pinnacle moments there involved the moon set ablaze with energy, and the resulting power burst that streaked away from it.  It’s certainly one of the moments that comes to mind when I think about Rhysus Mencari’s experience there. It seemed fitting to evoke the memory of that event, and provide a picture of what Mencari saw there.

This is a space opera series, so I went to the traditional presentations from books and television. Picturesque images are common place. So I created an initial sketch.

Crude mock-up for the second novelette

Crude mock-up for the second novelette

The blazing moon was peaking over the horizon of Alo. I sent it, along with some example photos (thank you Google Images) to my amazing illustrator Glenn Clovis. As a sidebar, I could never say enough about Glenn. He’s amazingly talented, a dream to work with, and makes manifest your dreams!

He sent back this amazing image.

First version of the cover based on my crude sketch.

First version of the cover based on my crude sketch.

Beautiful, isn’t it? It felt very Star Trek the Next Generation or Star Trek Voyager (which is great). Though, it felt very still. That wasn’t Glenn’s fault, it’s exactly what I asked for from him. It needed some type of action, something that would pull people in. Good covers make people go “oooh,” and also makes them ask questions—makes them want to be there.

Then I remembered “the streak” from the end of the chapter. I created a quick sketch and shot it over to Glen. The following is my original with Glenn’s response.

cover-thoughts untitled

You’ll notice the dramatic shift in design. How incredible. It really punched things up.  As always, I took it to my Facebook page to get feedback from my incredible fans and followers. It was received very well, though some people mentioned it looked like a highway of light more so than a streak. Fair enough!

I put another tweaked version out there, that was better received.

My "comet effect" version

My “comet effect” version

Glenn made a few adjustments, and BAM!  The final cover was ready.

Glenn's final version with the series branding applied.

Glenn’s final version with the series branding applied.

So there you have it!  D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy will be available on Amazon within a day!  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Don’t forget to post your review on Amazon.com as well.  🙂

Working with Amazon’s CreateSpace for D’mok Revival: Mindwalk

Amazon as a company continues to surprise me.  Not only do they have an amazing ecommerce platform, powerful ebook publishing system, and well designed audio-book development studio, but their print-on-demand book publishing wing has proven to be equally as intuitive, powerful, and effective!

When I first ventured into self-publishing I wanted to establish credibility as both a legitimate author and producer of a professional product. To do this I contracted with editors, visual designers, and a smaller traditional printer. I certainly made my mistakes and learned a great deal.  In the end, the euphoric feeling of holding my first book rocked me to my core and cemented my dedication to being an author and publisher.

There’s much to be weary of in the print industry and when conducting your own business. While not insurmountable, there are many mines in the path for those venturing down publisher lane.  Read some of my older blog entries about those issues.

After publishing my third book, I wanted to bring a segment removed from the third manuscript to market as a novelette (between 10-17k words).  Unlike my main books, I didn’t want to carry inventory (translation, keep boxes of books at home waiting to be sold) for the novelette. In truth, I thought it would have a limited appeal given it builds off the third book of my first trilogy versus standing alone as a short story. But, I have some amazing fans that may be interested in it, and the story is interesting!

Enter Amazon’s CreateSpace!

A friend and fellow author Tim Clausen recently released his own book, Love Together, using CreateSpace. He briefly talked about his positive experience using the platform. It made me reconsider leveraging the offering.

Originally I stayed away from the platform because it didn’t offer the book size I wanted. After all, I had done a great deal of research about popular and contemporary science fiction book sizes and wanted to do what the market wanted and expected.

However, since this was expected to be a low-distribution product, if there was ever a good time to test CreateSpace, this was it!

To be blunt, CreateSpace is amazingly intuitive to use. Keep in mind, I’m used to working directly with the printer. This includes specifying every last detail from paper, bleeds, trims, cover gloss type, placement of the UPC, creating detailed cover files, desktop publishing and formatting of the internal content–everything.

Upon entering CreateSpace, I checked the book sizes offered. As before, my preferred size was not there. However, one size was pretty close.  Once I knew the size, I could work on my cover and back cover images. Luckily I had three books of templates to work with now. Sure, I had to adjust the size in Photoshop, but I feel like an old pro making covers now.

The tricky part is always the spine. Based on the number of pages, the spine size changes, which means there’s ALWAYS an adjustment needed for your book cover templates (unless they’re always the same page count).  Turns out, for the Mindwalk novelette, it was under 100 pages so they couldn’t even provide a size estimate for the spine!  Translation: they couldn’t tell me how big to make the spine.

Okay, that was clear a snag.  But they gave me an approximate overall size I needed for the full front, spine, back cover file.  I adjusted to those dimensions.  I saved out the required JPEG format.  Done.

Next, I used Microsoft Word–I know it’s not a desktop publisher–to do the simple text formatting for the inside of the book.  It honestly can held the type of design I need for a book, including inserting of images as needed. So, I don’t really need more power than that for the inside contents. After a final review, the Word document was all squared away.  Done.

Back into CreateSpace I went.

It allows you to create an ISBN number through Amazon. That just means you don’t have to pay for a seperate ISBN book sales and distrubion number (you need a unique one for each book and delivery format–including ebooks). You could use your own if you have them. However, if you use Amazon’s free ISBN number, it becomes exclusive to their system.  Again, this was for Mindwalk, not one of the core novels, so this was fine.  I selected the radio button specifying to use theirs.  Done.

I selected the book size.  Done

I uploaded the cover JPEG image.  Done

I uploaded the Word document. Done

I was able to instantly do an on-line preview. Great! Saw a warning the dots per inch (DPI) resolution on my bio picture was too low. It’s just there for reference and I don’t mind if my picture is not higer quality in a novelette. Clicked OK. Done.

It asked about cover details like do you want it to be glossy (shiny) or matte (dull, more paper-like).  Done.

The next step was a final online review or have them send a printed proof at the cost of production plus shipping. For Mindwalk the cost was a little over $2.15 to print, plus shipping.  Perfect.

*ALWAYS get a printed proof so you can review it.*  I learned this from going the traditional route. Avoid rushing a product to market because you want it out there faster.  Quality is more important than speed with traditional novels and novelettes.  Remember one mad person turns into a review that stunts any future sales potential. And that review lives forever, especially on Amazon.

I set the final price ($.50 above what Amazon said I had to sell it for based on using their platform and their expected profit). I also flagged for them to go ahead and do distribution and promotion of the book across their international sites, etc.

A week later I received the printed proof and found tweaks I wanted to make. I popped back into the system, clicked on the Mindwalk book, and easily re-uploaded the cover and inner content Word document. I ordered a second printed proof.  You can get expedited shipping if you want. I didn’t need that, so I was not willing to pay the additional cost for it. I found a few tweaks again, but did not order a third proof.  I felt confident enough to approve it from a final online review.

One button click and it went into the system for people to order.  It says it could take up to a few hours to show up publicly.  Regardless, it was painless the entire time.

WAIT!  That’s not totally true!  Use Chrome not Internet Explorer.  Their online preview tool works better with Chrome, and glitches a bit with Internet Explorer.

Okay, other than that, it was great.  The cost to print is so low.  You don’t have to carry any inventory! Honestly, it’s difficult to consider going back to the traditional printers.  However, I do want to maintain the style and format I’ve established from the first three novels.

We’ll see what I chose for the fourth novel in the D’mok Revival series, which has already entered my “rewrite” process.  I can confirm there’s another novelette coming, and it will use CreateSpace.

I highly recommend it!  Email me with questions about the experience!

What is D’mok Revival: Mindwalk?

During the editing process of book three, my amazing editor, Arlene Robinson, voiced her concern about two specific chapters. It wasn’t that she didn’t like them, she felt they interrupted the pacing and focus of the overall story arc.

The two chapters in question were around 13,000 words that covered the mindwalk that the character known as Katen does in the mind of the Nukari beast captured in book two.

The segment exposed a great deal of information about what’s going on in the Nukari side of the universe.  Specifically, where the contemporary Nukari beasts were created, what type of master Kajlit’ga was, how the Nukari beast felt about Nukari activities, and what they knew about Rhysus Mencari.

It was very difficult to pull it from book three because I felt it really provided great insights into what’s happening in the D’mok literary universe.  It also exposed the mysterious personalities of Fio’tro and Fia’ra, and proved they were more than a bad case of dementia for Katen. In fact, you see their abilities and finally understand that Katen’s powers are actually a result of channeling what all three beings once individually did.

My editor did, in fact, review the content and professionally edit it. In response to some of her concerns and confusions, I added more content taking the word count to over 15,000.  In the end, she really enjoyed it and saw the value in what it added to the D’mok literary universe.

I couldn’t sit on this! I wanted to share it, especially for the amazing fans of the D’mok series.  So, I decided to package it up and release it as a stand-alone short story.  In late December, D’mok Revival: Mindwalk will go public.  To help with getting the word out, I’m going to provide in from two sources: Amazon for a minimal cost and, for fans, a special link to the D’mok Revival site where existing fans can get it for FREE. 😉

I’m looking forward to getting feedback on what people think about Mindwalk.